To Susan B. Anthony
on her eightieth birthday
February 15, 1900
My honored friend, I’ll ne’er forget,
That day in June, when first we met:
Oh! would I had the skill to paint
My vision of that “Quaker Saint”:
Robed in pale blue and silver gray,
No silly fashions did she essay:
Her brow so smooth and fair,
‘Neath coils of soft brown hair:
Her voice was like the lark, so clear,
So rich, and pleasant to the ear:
The “‘Prentice hand,” on man oft tried,
Now made in her the Nation’s pride!
We met and loved, ne’er to part,
Hand clasped in hand, heart bound to heart.
We’ve traveled West, years together,
Day and night, in stormy weather:
Climbing the rugged Suffrage hill,
Bravely facing every ill:
Resting, speaking, everywhere;
Oft-times in the open air;
From sleighs, ox-carts, and coaches,
Besieged with bugs and roaches:
All for the emancipation
Of the women of our Nation.
Now, we’ve had enough of travel.
And, in turn, laid down the gavel,—
In triumph having reached four score,
We’ll give our thoughts to art, and lore.
In the time-honored retreat,
Side by side, we’ll take a seat,
To younger hands resign the reins,
With all the honors, and the gains.
United, down life’s hill we’ll glide,
What’er the coming years betide;
Parted only when first, in time,
Eternal joys are thine, or mine.
(The law compels a married woman to take the nationality of her husband.)
In Time of War
Help us. Your country needs you;
Show that you love her,
Give her your men to fight,
Ay, even to fall;
The fair, free land of your birth,
Set nothing above her,
Not husband nor son,
She must come first of all.
In Time of Peace
What’s this? You’ve wed an alien,
Yet you ask for legislation
To guard your nationality?
We’re shocked at your demand.
A woman when she marries
Takes her husband’s name and nation:
She should love her husband only.
What’s a woman’s native land?
Let me make the songs for the people,
Songs for the old and young;
Songs to stir like a battle-cry
Wherever they are sung.
Not for the clashing of sabres,
For carnage nor for strife;
But songs to thrill the hearts of men
With more abundant life.
Let me make the songs for the weary,
Amid life's fever and fret,
Till hearts shall relax their tension,
And careworn brows forget.
Let me sing for little children,
Before their footsteps stray,
Sweet anthems of love and duty,
To float o'er life's highway.
I would sing for the poor and aged,
When shadows dim their sight;
Of the bright and restful mansions,
Where there shall be no night.
Our world, so worn and weary,
Needs music, pure and strong,
To hush the jangle and discords
Of sorrow, pain, and wrong.
Music to soothe all its sorrow,
Till war and crime shall cease;
And the hearts of men grown tender
Girdle the world with peace.
They signed The Declaration of Sentiments
with nib of rib, the right to suffrage their daring
Called ugly then witch, pretty then weak
to be at once woman and voter, their daring
Hunger, headaches, heartaches, hatred, death
all this, and more, it cost them, their daring
As men are born, with God’s grace, so are women
they urged and argued with brains and daring
With firm convictions and hopes of fallen yokes
steadfast they marched nursing dreams of future daring
Sojourner, Dolores, their daughters left behind
now work against voter suppression with daring
There is more work on the horizon, more
yeast to knead into the bread of their daring
Persist Claudia! in mind and body be
not ugly, not pretty, but ablaze with daring.
[Elvira H. D., 1924-2019]
You love a red lip. The dimples are
extra currency, though you take care to keep
powder from caking those charmed valleys.
Mascara: check. Blush? Oh, yes.
And a hat is never wrong
except evenings in the clubs: there
a deeper ruby and smoldering eye
will do the trick, with tiny embellishments—
a ribbon or jewel, perhaps a flower—
if one is feeling especially flirty or sad.
Until Rosie fired up her rivets, flaunting
was a male prerogative; now, you and your girls
have lacquered up and pinned on your tailfeathers,
fit to sally forth and trample each plopped heart
quivering at the tips of your patent-leather
Mary Janes. This is the only power you hold onto,
ripped from the dreams none of you believe
are worth the telling. Instead of mumbling,
why not decorate? Even in dim light
how you glister, sloe-eyed, your smile in flames.
After reading a letter from his mother, Harry T. Burn cast the deciding vote to ratify the 19th amendment of the U.S. Constitution
My parents are from countries
where mangoes grow wild and bold
and eagles cry the sky in arcs and dips.
America loved this bird too and made
it clutch olives and arrows. Some think
if an eaglet falls, the mother will swoop
down to catch it. It won’t. The eagle must fly
on its own accord by first testing the air-slide
over each pinfeather. Even in a letter of wind,
a mother holds so much power. After the pipping
of the egg, after the branching—an eagle is on
its own. Must make the choice on its own
no matter what its been taught. Some forget
that pound for pound, eagle feathers are stronger
than an airplane wing. And even one letter, one
vote can make the difference for every bright thing.
Decades I have waited to make sunlight
for all of this to matter, a mark built to
rest and a mark laid living. I am sworn
to my worth even when the scales weep
their own little swords, slanting outside
the song and full of soothing to speak each
vowel. Everything happens toward its own
making, an infinite becoming from all that
is yet to be faced. When it seemed
as though I had touched the arm of love,
little did I know, I had found a door
with which to enter the sky. And to
the sky, little did I know, the door would
open for me. All, as it will be, as it should be,
in effort of The Great Balance.
Five days ago, I stood under a flight of egrets,
shifting between fenced field of mud and factory
yard. What could they have guessed of stability,
a fairness of wings, restoring what had always been
theirs to have. Like them, I have
steeped myself with others, for so long my roots
sprouting from the cloud of this fight, daring to follow
where the arrow leads, until it is my turn.
Until now, my turn.